My other assumption about Nata’s role in my development of a spiritual sensibility was that I treated it the way I initially did the 2x2s, that I just believed it—as though it were a light switch, because I did function in that way so much. When I was with Nata that light came on, and when I wasn’t, it went off again.

And, of course, there must have been some that. Nata was wonderful to me. She was kind and good and protected and loved me, so whatever she thought about things must have seemed to me to be right.

But I have also been thinking it can’t entirely have been like that. In the middle school years, maybe starting in sixth grade, religion and ethics were these huge topics of conversation among my friends. We were discussing the moral rightness or wrongness of abortion and capital punishment. I was discussing the pope with a Catholic friend and the afterlife with an atheist friend. I don’t see how I didn’t have those kinds of conversations with Nata.

For a long time, it also seemed to me that I just couldn’t have had the language skills to discuss complex issues. That couldn’t have been possible. But I don’t think that now. It’s possible I didn’t, but it’s starting to seem that the conversations we had were quite complex, that maybe we struggled with vocabulary and how to put sentences together in a simple way we could both understand, but I just have this feeling about the whole thing: that we were managing to discuss quite complex things.

Also, I think we were discussing religious matters, because as I look at the prayers she taught me—which have a lot of long words in them I didn’t necessarily know—some of them are easy for me to remember now. They are familiar in the way “cat” was familiar, in the way “cup” was, as if they used frequently enough that I started to remember them quite well. “Sin” is familiar. “Heaven” is familiar.

So, I’m piecing this together from little circumstantial clues. It’s speculative, but I’m starting to realize this stage of “remembering” is necessary even though it isn’t actually remembering. It gives me some kind of framework later to place the actual, real, sensory memories into. It’s fine if I’m a bit wrong. The framework can be altered and refined. But it’s really difficult when there is no framework, and the memories starting bubbling up and all I’m left with is chaos.

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